A chance meeting led the U.S. secretary of education to accept an invitation to visit a local school she once portrayed as a “dangerous daycare.”
East Hartford Board of Education Chair Bryan Hall is in Washington, D.C. attending a National School Board conference. Hall wrote a letter to DeVos two days ago asking to meet with her but says he doesn’t believe she received the letter.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at a luncheon there. After the speech, Hall says he and Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Executive Director Bob Rader walked down a hallway and entered a door to try and find Devos.
“We picked the right door. We picked the door Secretary DeVos was behind,” said Hall.
Hall says when he got the chance to speak with DeVos, he shook her hand and asked her if she remembered what she said in regards to East Hartford Public Schools. She asked if he was referencing East Hartford High School and Hall said yes.
Back in 2017, DeVos told a congressional committee that a former student at EHHS described it as “nothing more than adult daycare. A dangerous daycare.” It sparked outrage and protests in the community with many asking DeVos to come see the school for herself. But before Monday, she never said yes.
“I said, ‘I would love for you to come to East Hartford, to show you that what you said is not what East Hartford is about, that we have wonderful students, wonderful schools, and that our schools are not an adult daycare,’” said Hall. “I said, ‘I would love for you to come to East Hartford,’ and she said, ‘I accept.’”
Hall spoke to NBC Connecticut over the phone and told us a staffer emailed him a request form to fill out for the visit. He hopes she’ll come so that they can show her all the good happening inside EHHS.
“I'm thinking positive right. It was a real good meeting, and I'm feeling very, very positive,” said Hall.
NBC Connecticut reached out to DeVos for comment but did not hear back. Previously, a spokesperson for DeVos released the following statement in regards to the “dangerous daycare” reference.
"The Secretary’s focus is on individual students and ensuring they each have access to a high-quality education that meets their needs. In her remarks, she relayed one student's experience and used his own words to describe the challenging circumstances he faced in high school," DeVos' press secretary, Elizabeth Hill, said in a statement.
"He, like so many other students across the country, needed another option but didn’t have access to one. For anyone to assert that Michael’s individual story should be generalized to the broader student population is a symptom of the one-size-fits-all status quo that too many continue to seek to defend. Michael is an individual student with an individual story to tell. He was able to rise above what he considered challenging circumstances and go on to excel academically. We should be applauding students like him," Hill's statement says.
There’s no timeline for when the education secretary would make her visit.